Dear All – I wanted to offer below this excellent reflection from Sister Theresa Keller, FSPA, that was sent to me on hunger. Sister Theresa explores beautifully what it means to live in a context racked with hunger. Thank you Sister Theresa!
I also would like to welcome folks to post comments to the blog and dialog with each other through the blog space. I still have much to learn about this blogging but one thing that strikes me is the chance for the wisdom of the whole to shine through – not just one person’s questions or hunches but the combined insights of many. Blessing on your Lenten Journeys…Much Peace Liz
Sister Theresa’s Reflection
I have often heard the Cameroonians here talk of the abundance of food in the United States. How they were overwhelmed by their first experience of the “supermarket.” Though I have experienced hunger as a child and a few times in my life, I can only image the pain of hunger felt in an entire community. I was teaching a class on human adaptation to my Cameroonian students asking about their adaptive responses to attending boarding school. Without pause a number answered the most difficult adaption has been “I always feel hungry.”
My experience has taught me, most poor will feast when food is available adhering to the lifeline to eat as much as you can because you do not know when you will eat again. Food preparation for poor women is an all day event. There are no fast food breakfast places to swing by in the morning. A myth we have in the developing world is that the poor eat more natural food. Not really. The poor eat what is available and protein is dearly lacking in their diets. Food consists of the fruit or vegetable in season. There is no thought to quality if you have no money to buy.
I was at the market buying rice with a friend. There were several bins of rice for sale. My friend wanted to try a higher quality of rice for her children. I also bought some and we split a few kilos. The rice was much better quality but my friend could only afford it if I split the cost. For Valentine’s Day and Halloween, I bought candy for my students. I had flashes of all the candy in the stores at home and knew the excess of eating six Reeses Peanut Butter cups. I had a small piece of candy for each of the 45 students, they were thrilled.
I am not writing this to cause folks to fast or have guilt about the occasional drive thru McDonald’s or to get crazy and do the 100 mile diet. (Folks in the mid-west would not last the winter trying to sustain on food grown in that area). I am writing because hunger is a complex overwhelming problem for most of the world. Yes, war can ravage the land and displace millions of people but even without civil conflicts, hunger can be seen in the face of millions of children.
I tried to teach healthy nutrition for the critically ill patient to the hospital staff and suddenly realized none of the nurses knew what was meant by calories. I fell back on the portion size of foods, but how can you limit portions to someone who is hungry?
I have no doubt we have enough to feed everyone and heard it stated our problem is distribution– even if we were to re-distribute the food it would not solve the problem. A dear friend assists resident physicians in their clinic practice. Often, the residents will want the nurse to do this or that for them, such as fill out a form, but she gently redirects them stating, “I can feed you fish today and you will eat or I can teach you to fish and you will eat for a long time.” I guess that’s what I hope will happen with this hunger piece that we begin to teach people the underlying or infrastructures that are not present or block people from having their fill. We teach community to share enough so that no one goes hungry.
Being hungry does not lead to deeper spirituality, it just leads to feeling more hungry. I think Jesus had the best idea about hunger in the loaves and the fishes. He knew the way to feed everyone was to set them all down and share what they had brought. He did not ask the disciples to follow him before they had learned to fish. Thanks, Sister Theresa